When my father told me he was going on holiday to New Zealand for a month I jumped at the chance to ‘house sit’ for him in rural southern France. During my time here several friends and family members will come and go; one of them is Dan Anticich, a New Zealand born poet living in London who will share with you this week his unique perspective on visiting a country for the first time.
Castelnau D’Aude with its prominent yet rickety bell towerfulfils the small provincial French village stereotype to perfection, complete with incorrect signposting, shops that never seem to open, and a comforting feeling that nothing of genuine note has happened for at least the last century or so. I was also interested to find that one of our long bearded next-door neighbours, a friendly yet fascinating character who graffitis the exterior of his house with such questionable statements as ‘Behold The Man,' has also self appointed himself Pope. Sadly however, this wasn’t enough for our hairy friend to carry off the dubious mantle of Village Idiot, an honour bestowed on another gentleman who I am told is infinitely more worthy.
This is why the idea of pre-mediated opinions of other countries interests me. I have only ever been able to gather views and ideas of other countries and their peoples through the usual mediums of books, art and (if I was to be honest) television. Obviously this method of remote cultural education will ring true with people all over the world, but I feel that us Kiwis have a particular claim to it because going abroad is not as simple as getting on a train or going for a drive to cross a border. Rather we have to save up a good deal of money and fly off our islands in search of lands far away.
In thinking about whether I’ve got a claim to it or not, I may quite simply be wrong. If we are not able to, travel to the places we have heard about so many times, we don’t have a choice but to glean information from the sources we have available. As in most things in life, we learn from hearing information, seeing sights and interacting with other human beings. Unfortunately these sources are not necessarily one hundred percent accurate. My view of the United States for example; a place I’ve not had the pleasure to visit, consists of multi-faceted snapshots of big bustling cities, wide silent plains, flowing rivers, dry arid deserts, apple pie, pizza (a dish I hear that the Italians make claims on), the small towns that Steinbeck understood so well, the endless interstate asphalt which Kerouac traversed with such wanton passion and the countless other images and ideas that I have soaked up over the years. But if asked what my thoughts are on America, I don’t feel I would truly be able to answer.
I have several friends and acquaintances who have travelled to America, and interestingly, despite their preconceived ideas and stereotypes, they mainly comment on the people, and more accurately their strong propensity for both pride in their country and also unequalled hospitality and generosity. From the places that I have been fortunate enough to visit, ranging from Japan or Thailand to Hungary, I would have to agree that the people have affected me most. The memories of my travels centre on a person or a group of people who have made my visit an unforgettable experience of an either positive or negative nature.
© Copyright 2009 by RuralNorthwest.com, Inc